Let the Phone Ring

January 12, 2023

One pioneering family—with Klal Yisroel behind them—can change the shidduch crises forever.

Elisheva Braun

What does it take to change someone’s mind?

How about a society rooted in static public habits?

Change dawns gradually; communal shifts are slow to the point of imperceptibility.

Often, all the proof and passion in the world cannot get a MAGA enthusiast behind Biden or a sugar lover on the health food bandwagon.

Today, a Lakewood family works with school staff, singles, and parents in the effort to upgrade an outdated and underequipped shidduch system.  

Take a seat. You’re about to watch history happen.

Lifesaving shadchan  

Shloimy Newhouse, an outgoing guy with an easy manner and a let’s-get-this-done approach, has always had a knack for matchmaking.

“Years ago, Freddy Friedman offered me a job managing his shidduchim. I turned it down and launched a real estate investment business with a partner. But I never forgot my passion for making shidduchim,” he relates.

Shloimy remembers the desperate phone calls he’s received from parents of singles. “These people with gifted, amazing kids would do anything to get a first date, but nobody was looking their way.

“The more involved in shidduchim I got, the more pain I saw. I wanted to help.”

Four-lane highway into Meah Shearim

Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kanarek is among the architects of Lakewood’s chinuch. Discussing the current shidduch system with Shloimy, he compared our process to a four-lane, eighty-miles-per-hour highway leading into Me’ah Shearim. Our roadways do not accommodate our traffic; thousands of seminary graduates are bottlenecked by an archaic and understaffed solution.

“We’ve built so many bagel shops, clothing stores, camps, and even schools to cater to Klal Yisroel’s growth, yet we haven’t managed to create a shidduch system that works for our ever-expanding population,” Rabbi Kanarek noted.

Shloimy recently spent some time with shadchan Tzodek Katz. Rabbi Katz put his phone down for their conversation, and when he picked it up an hour and a half later, he had over a missed hundred calls, texts, and emails.

“He showed me his notifications,” says Shloimy, “He kept on scrolling and scrolling. There were tears in Tzodek’s eyes when he told me, ‘Every one of these people thought a hundred times before calling; they didn’t want to disturb me or look desperate or seem annoying.

There’s not enough time in the day for me to return all these calls, and it’s impossible for me to get to know all these people and think of ideas for them.’”

Shloimy explains that shadchanim want to help, but they can’t service tens of thousands. He describes a new practice of paying shadchanim to work privately for one’s child or a group of singles as akin to, ‘Putting a doctor at the bottom of a ski slope.’ It isn’t a solution; it’s an emergency response.

“We need an army of shadchanim. We need to scale to have a massive pool of people redting shidduchim. We need to increase shidduch activity in a big way. We need to create a new reality where thousands of people are thinking of shidduchim.”

The answer  

They say every manmade problem has a manmade solution. Shloimy was determined to find it.

Mrs. Devora Newhouse, his mother, is a secretary at Shiras Devorah High School. She had a groundbreaking idea to increase shidduch activity. “For years, my mother was saying that it made no sense for so many singles to rely on so few shadchanim. She wanted to get more teachers involved in matchmaking,” Shloimy says.

Simchaseinu records show that many teachers spend hours each week giving shidduch information about their students. A lot of the suggestions they play reference in never make it past the research stage. That’s because ideas brainstormed by near-strangers are often off base.

Lakewood shadchan Shlomo Lewenstein says, “Teachers really get to know their students, so they are in the perfect position to come up with targeted, on-point suggestions. Their time would be much better spent thinking of ideas than giving information.”

Mrs. Newhouse pointed out that making a full shidduch is daunting but setting up a couple for a first date feels doable. If teachers were compensated for every first date they initiate, the awareness and appreciation could spark the motivation to turbocharge the slow-moving world of shidduchim, one match at a time.

Getting off the ground

Before undertaking this massive endeavor, Shloimy consulted with his rosh yeshiva, Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel. “Rav Elya Ber strongly pushed me to do it. He told me, ‘We can’t forget about the pain of these girls. What they’re going through is a gehinnom.’”

“Two years ago, I tried starting Simchaseinu,” says Shloimy. The initiative pays teachers for first dates and works to keep them inspired and motivated about making shidduchim. “There was a lot of groundwork to be done; a lot of infrastructure to be built within schools to make it successful. The idea didn’t take off.

A little over a year ago, with the help of Mrs. S.B Katz, Rabbi Yonasan Sanders, and Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kanarek got on board to help their students beyond graduation.

“It’s been amazing to see how busy administrators and principals are so aware of their students’ pain. Watching them clear their calendars and devote endless efforts to helping their alumnae is inspiring,” says Shloimy.

A family project

At the age of twelve, Rav Avrohom Newhouse zt’l left his Hachenburg, Germany home to join the Telz yeshiva of Lithuania. As prewar tensions rose, Avrohom made shidduchim between visa-carrying German citizens from his hometown and the local Lithuanian girls who were trapped in Europe. Today, many prominent frum families exist because of the lifesaving shidduchim he made.

Rabbi Newhouse married Rebbetzin Rivka Edelman z’l from Lithuania and immigrated to America where they established Bais Yaakov of Williamsburg and the legendary Camp Bais Yaakov.

Seven decades later, the footsteps of Rav Avrohom Newhouse zt’l are followed by his grandchildren.

Soon after Simchaseinu’s launch, Shloimy met and married his wife, Chaya Bracha. “I became more determined than ever to pay it forward and help people find their bashert,” he shares.

Chaya Bracha immediately got on board. She tells The Voice, “I went through the shidduch system for a number of years. It’s very meaningful to give back in this capacity after having gone through it myself. As newlyweds, we feel a strong sense of hakaras hatov.”

Shloimy handles Simchaseinu’s overall operation. His wife, Chaya Bracha, and his sister, C.M. Weiss, manage the nuts and bolts of the organization.

“My brother is an action person,” says Mrs. Weiss. “He takes care of the big picture. Chaya Bracha and I stay on top of details like accounting, timely compensation, and managing all the emails and calls.”

As Shloimy’s real estate company grew, he could run the operation out of his business. “Securing funding was easy,” he shares. “I reached out to our core group of investors and partners, and they were happy to fund the initiative. Today, we have pooled a group of founding donors who are invested in helping to ease the shidduch crisis.”

Beyond graduation

From the moment they enter our bais yaakovs, we cocoon our girls in school. Shouldn’t that care extend outside the school halls? Teachers display such care for their students, but as Mrs. Devora Newhouse remarked, while high school moros carry the weight of being active shidduch references, they never officially took on the task of brainstorming for shidduchim. 

Every school has a handful of teachers who spend many hours thinking of shidduchim.

Simchaseinu’s mission is that every teacher should think shidduchim.

“Our success depends on the cooperation of the schools in allowing us to work and grow with their staff. We deliver presentations to teachers, encouraging them to think of shidduchim for their students.

We explain that you only need to know a handful of bochurim to make shidduchim: a neighbor, a nephew, a son’s friend, and a Shabbos guest are surely enough to fit with a few of the hundreds of girls that they know,” says Shloimy.

In the twelve months since its official inauguration, Simchaseinu has facilitated 94 1st dates and 23 engagements, set up by about 50 teachers.

Most of the 94 setups were followed by at least four dates, which indicates that the shidduchim being redt are viable and on-target. Of all the girls to be redt a shidduch, only one girl was set up twice, further proving the power of scale. Many girls aren’t at the top of shadchanim’s radars. With this kind of scope, fewer are forgotten.

Win-win solution

Simchaseinu isn’t a mercenary answer; the compensation simply acts as a motivator and token of appreciation.

A teacher in Bais Shaindel High School shares, “It is the most rewarding feeling to stand at a student’s chuppah and know that as a teacher, I had a part in it. It solidifies a warm relationship as we walk together towards the goals we have dreamed of for them. However, when a shidduch does not work out, the tremendous amount of time invested may feel at best unappreciated and at worst, as time taken from one’s own family and responsibilities only to cause disappointment and even hurt feelings. After a few such instances, I felt like I could use a long break from redting shidduchim. Then I got an encouraging note from Simchaseinu upon its inauguration. The token of appreciation gave a feeling that Klal Yisrael truly does acknowledge the necessity for more shadchanim and that teachers can make a difference. That week I redt a student’s shidduch which culminated in a mazel tov shortly afterwards!”

A teacher at Oros Bais Yaakov was filled with joy when she made her first shidduch in eighteen years thanks to inspiration from Simchaseinu. “You woke up something dormant inside me,” she told the organization. “You reignited my passion for making shidduchim.”

Parents’ calls to teachers to facilitate shidduchim have increased “and we hope it increases tenfold,” says Shloimy.

The records indicate that when single women’s families knows that teachers are rewarded for their help, they feel more comfortable reaching out to them.

Mothers of bochurim have begun to call teachers, asking them to think of a match for their son.

Some are even sending their sons to meet teachers, so they have a clear idea of what he needs.

Always growing

Simchaseinu is focused on Lakewood’s girls for the time being, but they hope to expand throughout the country. “We get calls from cities all over the US, asking us to bring Simchaseinu to their schools. Our plan is to first strengthen our local system before scaling it throughout the country,” says Shloimy.

Simchaseinu is constantly coming up with ways to increase their impact. The Newhouses recently hosted a fundraiser and siyum with rabbanim, donors, and school administrators in attendance.

Monthly mailings keep the momentum going

Mrs. Weiss says, “We gave our teachers a pretty zmanim calendar at the beginning of the year with a label that reads, ‘Another week has gone by, have you redt a shidduch?’ People hang this on their refrigerators so shidduchim is always top of mind.”

One of Chaya Bracha’s primary responsibilities is being in touch with teachers, specifically after they’ve made a shidduch. “It’s so exciting to hear about their experiences, how Simchaseinu has impacted their efforts, and how we can further improve our procedures. I hear lots of stories about shidduchim that fell into their laps once their eyes were open. The hashgacha is unbelievable.”

An archive of resumes

Have you ever wanted to suggest a shidduch but were hesitant to ask for a resume?

Simchaseinu has created a secure database where girls’ resumes are stored. When a teacher thinks of an idea, she contacts the organization’s office for a copy of the girl’s resume.

“It’s important that we have the resumes; so many teachers ask for them and the easy access makes it far simpler to redt shidduchim,” says Shloimy.

“Some girls are nervous to contribute the database. They’re afraid their resume will end up all over the place. In fact, we’re very careful with the files. The only people who can access a woman’s resume are her own teachers, and only after identifying themselves and confirm that they have a specific suggestion in mind.”

Feeling their pain

Once, an older South American bochur in Chaim Berlin was about to get engaged. His thrilled father flew in from halfway across the globe on the morning of the scheduled l’chaim. That afternoon, to the bochur’s heartbreaking disbelief,

the shidduch fell apart. After spending Shabbos together with Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt’l, the bochur prepared to drive his father to the airport on Sunday morning.

“Call me from JFK after you drop your father off,” Rav Hutner told the bochur. “I want you to take care of something there.”

When the boy called, the rosh yeshiva said, “What you’re going through must be very difficult.”

The bochur cried to Rav Hutner for twenty minutes, then wiped his tears and drove home.

When asked why the conversation had to happen in the airport, Rav Hutner responded, “I knew that the hardest part of the whole parsha would be that lonely drive home from the airport. I wanted to give him chizzuk before he got in the car.”

It’s become the norm for girls to return from seminary and wait for the phone to ring, getting only a handful of dates—or even suggestions—each year.

“Put yourself into singles’ loneliness,” Shloimy implores. “Many of them feel forgotten; the pain that they experience while sitting at home for months without a date is real.

“Another issue is that once they’re established in their single life, some women have a harder time settling down and getting married. As the divide between the boys and girls widens, a world of problems is created. When we extend ourselves to feel their vulnerability, it isn’t that hard to come up with shidduchim.”

At the most recent Agudah Convention someone asked, “Why is it that we’ve come up with support systems for every need in the frum world, yet we have not addressed the plight of the older single girl?”

Rav Ahron Lopiansky answered, “I would say to the girl who asked this question: Your tzaar is real and it’s painful and we respect it; we don’t take it lightly. This topic is an open wound in our society. It’s a source of incredible pain and a topic which is not dealt with enough.

Our whole world is built around marriage and there is a tremendous amount of people in the tzibur who are in tzaar, real tzaar. We don’t have any solutions for such a major crisis, but let’s acknowledge that we have a real tzara in our midst. This question, this cry, is a cry to all of us to step out of our comfort zone, feel the pain of someone else, and help in any which way possible.” 

It’s the teachers at the forefront of Simchaseinu’s revolutionary initiative, and the rest of us can only give kudos to their unending efforts and care.

Their investment into Klal Yisroel’s future will reap infinite rewards that only the Nachshons easing the pain of so many can bring.